Autumn can be such an endearing time of year. Outdoor activities no longer soak a person in sweat just at the thought. Chilly nights with cuddling under blankets. The return to routine early-to-bed-early-to-rise after summer’s excesses. The smells of earth and leaves and the first fires lit in fireplaces. The colors changing on the trees, across the vineyards. Short-term art, as if Christo teamed with Rothko for a grand-scale work of intense color.The leaves here turn color, especially on the grape vines, which can take on riotous shades of red and orange and gold. Mostly in unison, by varietal, except for the stray syrah that wandered into a crowd of cabernet.The trees’ leaves also change color before falling. But many of the hills are covered with pines that stay green. They aren’t the Christmas tree shapes but pins parasols–umbrella pines–that have branchless trunks giving way to rounded, clumpy tops that look like the clouds drawn by kindergartners. The spiky broom plants stay green, and laurel keeps its leaves. With rain, the grass grows back. Winter is a relatively green season here.Sometimes the stars are shining brightly when I wake, but by the time the Kid gets out the door a gray film has descended, thickening by the minute.
Minutes later, a text from a teen on a bus: “Go look outside. It’s magic.”Fog turns the Kodachrome-colored fall into a shades-of-gray enigma. I venture out. It’s so thick I can barely see my hand before my face. The familiar road is suddenly mysterious. It could go anywhere like this, to places unknown. I almost hesitate to even keep walking, as if I might end up in a parallel world and be unable to get home.As the sun begins to rise, the fog, too, starts to lift.Not uniformly, but leaving behind remnants. Clouds on the ground, here and there.When the sun climbs triumphant above the hills, the colors return to their saturated selves. A metaphor for my autumn moods. Longing/loving. Inside/outside. Retrospective/energized. Thinking a lot about loved ones who died, but busy on behalf of those living. Bittersweet.
It kind of reminds me of the Carl Sandburg poem, “Arithmetic.” Yes, my favorite poem is about math.
Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and
you can look out of the window and see the blue sky — or the
answer is wrong and you have to start all over and try again
and see how it comes out this time.Except the autumn funk isn’t so much about not getting the answer right as about wishing the goods things–the good people–could last forever. This time is good. Let’s just stay like this forever.
Doesn’t work that way. The leaves will fall from the branches. New ones will replace them later.My cousin asked whether the leaves change color here. I meant to answer, and then never got around to it. Because I didn’t want to just say “yes, they do.” Here it is, with my apologies for being late.